I want to take a moment to welcome a Brand New Blogger to the AfleetAlexForever BlogSpot. His name is Marcus Schmidli and he will be sharing a great deal of his Horse Racing knowledge with us. So without further ado, here is the first edition of the
"Marcus in Seattle" Files.
King of Kings
By Marcus Schmidli
"Curlin has proven himself across two continents with 16 starts, the honor of 2007 Horse of the Year and the greatest North American money-earner in racing history."
His racing career was over in a flash. Passed by two European horses in the final furlongs of the Breeders Cup Classic. His defeat was a polarizing moment in horse racing. For some, it allowed them to cash in on a big pay day. For a few, it allowed them to fist pump at the notion of "their" Zenyatta becoming horse of the year. And for others, namely me, that defeat was the one of the most painful moments of my young life.
You see, I'm 22. I'm immune to fear. I have very little worries aside from the normal day to day inconveniences. And very rarely, if ever, have I been troubled or saddened deeply by the loss of a loved one. But when I saw that Curlin hadn't managed to hit the board in his final race, I wept. That might be an odd way of dealing with the emotion surrounding the race. I could have rejoiced in Curlin's triumphs of the past, I know. But the past wasn't of any significance to me. Only the future. In the moments after the race, it hit me as it hit many for the first time, that the race I had just witnessed was most certainly Curlin's last. There was no future.
And with that powerful knowledge came the horrific feeling I had rarely felt. I felt as if I had lost a family member. Call it silly. Call it crazy. Call me what you will. I've never had a hard time saying goodbye to a horse, simply, because I've never been attached to one before. That very reason is why I was hit so hard and rocked to the core when I saw how all of this would play out. Underneath all of the speculation that Curlin would return for a 5 year old campaign, I secretly knew all that was too good to be true. Why would someone in this day and age allow an animal to do that? Why risk it? Why not go the way of Street Sense and Hard Spun, two horses who dazzled us and then left the sport as quickly as they entered it? Why even get your hopes up? Those lingering questions are rhetorical in some sense. We all know the answers before we ask, sometimes even if we don't want to hear them. Curlin racing at five was a pipe dream. And to be blunt, so was Curlin racing at four.
And so, in 16 starts, I got to witness 11 thrilling victories, one memorable loss to a filly who was out of this world, and many other races against top competition. Of the new decade, I have a hard time finding better statistics to build a colt's legacy. Tiznow winning back to back Classics is right there. But other than him, who really stood out? I saw Smarty Jones, Afleet Alex, Barbaro, Big Brown, Funny Cide and many others just as you have. I saw many horses fail in their attempt to becoming a Triple Crown winner. I saw one horse fail to fight off an infection and I saw a few horses who were wildly overrated in some sense. But what I witnessed these last two years with Curlin, was more than memorable. It was a religious experience to some degree. It brought a collective pool of race fans together to cheer for a horse who wasn't running for a Triple Crown but rather, immortality. And isn't that what the sport is about? Legacies. History. Tradition.
After watching Curlin win the Dubai World Cup this last year, I wrote this about the horse:"...No horse ever instilled more confidence in bettors, owners, trainers, fans and his jockey than Curlin. There hasn't been a race where he looks out matched or out classed. There hasn't been a race where he looked annoyed or rattled. I haven't seen him make a mistake in a race aside from maybe going too wide in the final turn at Belmont. All he does is win. And he wins big. Every time he takes the track he reminds me, with his elegance and superiority, that horse racing might still have a very bright future ahead."
I stand by that quote to this day. Curlin might not have won every race. But anyone who got to see him run felt privileged regardless of the outcome. I'm sure in the future, his records will be surpassed and people won't acknowledge what he gave to the sport these last few years. But I'm 22, I'm young and I haven't been witness to Spectacular Bid or Seattle Slew. I don't know Alysheba or Sunday Silence. All I know is what I'm able to see. What I've always been taught by my father was that horse racing is "The Sport of Kings." Maybe each era of racing has it's own king. THIS era belongs to Curlin. Farewell and thank you for the memories.
Long live the King!